Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains - dubbed the Mountains of the Moon - are situated in Western Uganda on the east side of the western African Rift Valley, along the Uganda - Congo border. Covering about 120km in length and 65km in width, these rugged and steep mountain ranges were gazetted as Rwenzori National Park in 1991 and declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. The park is known for its fascinating beauty made of a combination of 6 spectacular snow-capped peaks that include Africa's third highest peak - Mt. Stanley's Margherita peak (5109m), plus many glaciers, V-shaped valleys, multitude of fast flowing rivers with beautiful waterfalls, clear blue skies, a unique stratified vegetation with beautiful plant life.
Biodiversity of Mountain Rwenzori National Park
The park is known for the unique flora plus a number of species endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley and several that are endangered in the park. Some of the outstanding unique flora encountered in the higher zones of the mountain ranges include the giant heather, ground heather, ground-sells, ericas, and lobella of the tree heath and heath. The mountains have five distinct vegetation zones that change with altitude. A broken montane forest zone occurs below 2,400m, a bamboo zone occurs up to an altitude of 3,000m, a tree heath vegetation zone of giant heathers, frequently over 10m high, extends up to 3800m at the same altitude, although on better on soils, a tangled undergrowth punctuated by a mixture of small trees predominates, and an afro-alpine moorland zone upward to 4,400m.
The park has a diversity of wildlife that includes 89 species of mammals, 4 species of diurnal primates and 15 species of butterflies. The wildlife in the park varies with the altitude however most of them inhibit the lower slopes. Some of the wildlife encountered include the Rwenzori Colobus monkey, hyrax, leopard, forest elephant, chimpanzee, and l'Hoest monkey.
Rwenzori National Park is an important birding area (IBA) hosting about 217 species of birds of which 17 species are endemic to the park plus many Albertine Rift endemics. The forest zone at 1800m has a diversity of birds species including the Rwenzori Turaco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Long-eared Owl, Handsome Francolin, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Archers' Robin-chat, White-starred Robin, Rwenzori Batis, Montane Sooty Boubou, Lagden's Bush Shrike, Slender-billed Starling, Blue-headed Sunbird, Golden-winged Sunbird, Strange Weaver and several varieties of Barbets, Greenbuls, Apalises, IIladopsis, Flycatchers and Crimsonwings.
Trekking the Rwenzori Mountains
The Rwenzori are a world class mountaineering and hiking destination, ranked among the top most interesting hiking destinations in the world. This is highly attributed to the challenge they present as well as the magnificent beauty that makes it the more adventurous. There are two hiking trails, the Central Circuit and the Mahoma Nature Trail. The Central Circuit is the main trail for hiking the Rwenzori. It takes about seven days of trekking. Skilled climbers can trek to the summit of the snow capped Margherita peaks. The Mahoma Nature Trail is a short loop of about 28km. It is less strenuous than the circuit and can be trekked in 1 - 3 days. It is ideal for nature walks in the Rwenzori Mountains.
Getting to Rwenzori National Park
- Kampala to Fortportal highway and continue 70km on the Kasese road to the right
- Kampala to Mbarara highway through Queen Elizabeth National Park 10km from Kasese town to the left.